1. Foam Roller
I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions my love for foam rollers, and it still bears repeating – if you don’t have one, get one. For about twenty bucks, you can’t find a better deal to help your body.
2. Tennis Balls
As great as a foam roller is, sometimes it’s better to have something more localized. Tennis balls act as a poor man’s shiatsu massage, hitting on specific trigger points with more pressure than a foam roll can produce. Also great for smaller areas such as feet and the posterior shoulder. If you get a sleeve of three, keep one as a trigger point tool, then tape the remaining two together to form a peanut. The peanut is great for going along the spine and can be used for soft-tissue work or T-spine mobilization.
Unless you’re lucky enough to have someone on call for massages whenever you please, you can’t do much better than the theracane. There are some areas (like the upper traps) that are hard to work on with the foam roll or tennis ball.
4. Ab Wheel
My favorite tool for training the abs, the ab wheel has stood the test of time and far outperformed any other “six pack abs” device. The abdominal muscles, as well as the lumber spine, were not made for repetitive flexion. The proper function of the rectus abdominis (the main abdominal muscle trained with crunch-related exercises) is to resist spinal extension and hyperextension, which is trained with the ab wheel.
5. Quality Shoes
Many leg and lower back issues caused by exercise can be attributed to improper footwear. My personal preferences are Asics and Brooks, but there are several other good brands (New Balance, Saucony, among others) available, I’ve just learned these fit my feet well. The human body is built from the ground up, a poor base will lead to other problems up the chain.
6. The Right Gym
Depending on what you need or want in a gym (pool, basketball, racquetball, etc.), the cost can go from modest to pretty absurd. Many gyms sound great with the bells and whistles they feature, but how much will you actually use them? The gym I grew up in was subsidized by the city and only cost $100 a year, which will only cover 2-3 months at some of the chains. There were no frills, no extra amenities, and it worked great for me. It might not have been the best fit for others, but for me it was perfect. I recommend looking into private personal training based gyms, most will offer times other than your scheduled training sessions where you are free to use the facility.
This is only a partial list, but it is a good place to start if you're hoping to move & feel better. As always, if I can ever help out in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES